Zenith's Malcolm Hanlon

And other people news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--ZenithOptimedia has selected one of its top global executives, Malcolm Hanlon, to grow its operation in mainland China, where Publicis Groupe agencies are in a fierce battle with WPP Group’s GroupM companies. After a five-year stint in the U.K., Mr. Hanlon, 39, returns to Asia as Zenith Media’s CEO, China, starting Dec. 14.

Based in Shanghai, he will work alongside Steven Chang, Optimedia’s CEO, China and Philip Beck, CEO of China Media Exchange, the holding company for Publicis Groupe’s media agencies in the mainland, where Zenith and Optimedia continue to operate as separate brands under one roof. He will succeed Alex Abplanalp, who resigned to pursue a China-based position with an unnamed company. (Mr. Abplanalp’s new job is expected to be announced next week.)

“China is an important growth region for the future. We’re making money in Europe and the U.S. but the overall growth rate is just 1 or 2%. Places like China and India have to make up for low growth in western markets,” said Mr. Hanlon.

" I have no illusions that working in China is going to be nothing short of difficult. It’s going to be a tough job, but it’s also appealing. China is very exciting at the moment. It is becoming more professional and transparent and there are big challenges ahead like the Beijing Olympics. Communication strategies will become more critical as the market becomes less about lower prices for buying and more about clever ways of doing things, like planning and effective return-on-investment.”

Zenith is already one of the largest media agencies in the mainland, working with advertisers like Shanghai GM, a joint venture between General Motors Corp. and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., LVMH Group, Sony Corp., Johnson & Johnson’s over-the-counter drug joint venture, Xian-Janssen Pharmaceutical and Wyeth. Publicis Groupe’s $1.8 billion in China media billings last year, of which ZenithOptimedia contributed $1.1 billion, are neck-and-neck with GroupM’s $1.6 billion, according to estimates by Recma, a Paris-based group that monitors media agency billings. The third-ranked player, Aegis Group, had just $460 million in billings in 2005.

But Mr. Hanlon wants to invigorate Zenith in China, to make it "as successful, progressive, growing and dynamic as the rest of the Zenith network. People in China want to work for the most successful, well-regarded companies, so the key thing is to have a motivated, passionate workforce.”

Most recently, he was London-based managing director of ZenithOptimedia's international division, where he worked on global clients such as Puma, Hyundai Motor Co., Electrolux and Zurich Financial Services. Before relocating to Zenith's global headquarters, he was general manager of the agency’s Singapore office for five years. Before that, he held client service positions at Bates Worldwide in Indonesia and media roles at George Patterson Bates in his native Australia.

“Besides experience in Asia, he has tremendous client experience with global accounts plus good car experience with Hyundai, that’s very significant,” said Mr. Beck. In additon, “local staff and many clients are looking for international learnings they can use in the China market, because their expansion into tier two and tier three cities is making marketing jobs a bit more difficut than it’s been in the past.”

Mr. Hanlon has worked in difficult places like Turkey and Brazil as well as sophisticated markets like the U.S. and the U.K., “so he has good knowledge of different development cycles and how we’ve got to work media around them,” added Mr. Beck.

His long history as a trusted executive was another major reason Publicis Groupe picked him to run Zenith in China. Corruption in China’s media buying business is rife, leading many media agencies as well as multinational advertisers to become victims of fraud by local executives.

“Senior Publicis managment want people they can trust there. It's not a transparent market, so they want someone in China that they’ve known for a long time,” said Mr. Hanlon. “They also wanted to make sure they had someone who could incorporate what’s happening globally at ZenithOptimedia into China, who can network well with the global team.”

Other people news in Greater China

[shanghai] TBWA Worldwide has appointed Toby Leung as the first managing director of Auditoire in Shanghai. Previously, he was a partner at Shanghai's Y Plus Yoga Center. The Omnicom Group agency opened the office to represent both French events agencies owned by TBWA in France, Auditoire and La Mode en Images. Auditoire has been operating in France for the past 15 years and currently produces more than 150 events a year. La Mode en Image specializes in the luxury and fashion show business. Mr. Leung will work with managing partner Antoine Gouin, previously business director at Auditoire in Paris, where he was responsible for corporate and public events such as France Telecom’s Orange rebranding.

[shanghai] Nick Barham, who joined TBWA, Shanghai as planning director for China last year, has resigned. He will take on a planning role at Wieden + Kennedy in Shanghai early next year. His successor at TBWA has not been named.

[shanghai] Nike Corp. has promoted Willem Haitink to VP-general manager, China from general manager, Hong Kong & China.

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